The Mission of God: the Long and Short of It
“I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;
I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
Of my own mind; and in the midst of tears
I hid from Him, and under running laughter.
Up vistaed hopes I sped;
And shot, precipitated,
Adown Titanic glooms of chasmed fears,
From those strong Feet that followed, followed after.”
–Francis Thompson, “The Hound of Heaven”
God is on a mission…from God. He is looking for us.
The church calls this the “Missio Dei,” the very mission and purpose of God. John 3:16 announces the good news of a loving God whose affection is so deep and wide and high and long that He sent his One and Only, that all who put their trust in Him might live eternally with them. The next verse tells us why: “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:17).
God is in the saving business!
But we religious folks often forget God’s abounding affection for those not yet a part of the family. We’re insiders now, part of the saved—and a myopic, near-sighted vision of the mission often turns us toward pleasing the partisan rather than a search for the still-sinner. No one modeled the attitude we often have toward the truly lost quite like the Pharisees and the teachers of Torah in Luke 15.
Jesus was hanging around with the riff-raff and the shady business crowd, telling them stories and speaking of the Kingdom. The insiders didn’t like seeing Jesus rubbing shoulders with sinners, and they modeled a disdain even the Church Lady couldn’t replicate. So Jesus told three stories with the same central point:
- The Parable of the Lost Sheep- Luke 15:1-7
- The Parable of the Lost Coin- Luke 15:8-10
- The Parable of the Lost Son- Luke 15:11-32
Bam, bam, bam…Jesus’ stories demonstrated the unfolding biblical narrative of a missionary God seeking to save all that’s lost. This God leaves no stone unturned in His relentless pursuit, and models for all the essence of an evangelistic heart:
- When something is lost, God notices…because the lost in every city, much like Zacchaeus, matter to Him.
- When something is lost, God actively searches…because a good shepherd cannot imagine abandoning his sheep.
- When He searches, God goes all out…even boldly risking ninety-nine sheep by leaving them in open country to find the wayward one.
- When God has an all-out search, lost things are found…because results matter when something is important.
- When God finds the lost, God greatly rejoices…because the Lost & Found is his favorite spot in the building.
The long and the short of it is this: God has a preferential concern for those who are lost.
Red, yellow, black, white, rich, poor, illegal, or right—all are precious in his sight. And God models for all those who join Him in disciple making what an all-out, spare-no-expense search might look like as well.
Why do lost people matter so much?
Because all of the Godhead actively, eagerly, earnestly longs to see the lost join the great family of God. There the lost discover an inexpressible joy of becoming a child of God. There the Trinitarian love of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit rejoices as a family over the adoption of another precious child. God loves to adopt—and all of the Godhead is engaged in adoption.
Look at Jesus’ three stories again….
The good shepherd who notices a missing sheep and risks the herd to find the fallen? Well, that is Jesus, God the Son. The woman who uses the fire of a candle and the wind of a broom to find the lost coin hidden on the dirt floor? Well, that is God the Spirit. The father who runs to greet a wayward child and welcomes him back into the family with gifts and a party? Well, that is God the Father. All of the Trinity is engaged in this mission, because God is on a mission from God.
Always remember God Himself has already started the disciple making we venture upon. Wherever we go, we join Him there. So we arrive with a strategy—to model the Triune God in our mission work.
- By looking for the lost, the least, and the lowest—just like Jesus did. They are most receptive to the good news, and in greatest need of a rescue.
- By counting on the Holy Spirit to light the way to those who are lost, and to clear the path so that those so valuable to God may be found.
- By welcoming with open arms all who are weary, beat down, and broken—just as our Father did for us when we as prodigals found our way home.
When God finds the lost, God greatly rejoices…because the Lost & Found is his favorite spot in the building.
In Mission Impossible, the assignment always ended with the words, “This message will self-destruct in five seconds.” The marching orders for our mission come from God and will never destruct. But all around us people have destructed, and soon the world will too. So time is short. God is on a mission, and He bids you to join as well.